IoT Field Notes: Muddled Marketing Messages


Vendors are missing the point, as they strain to make any product or service fit on the IoT bandwagon.

Another form of “field work” I have to do involves wading through the “excitement” around this topic that fills my browser, inbox, voicemail, and calendar. My baseline observation is predictable – it feels like more hype than substance. As happened with Big Data and Cloud in the recent past, many existing technologies and areas of practice are trying to rebrand under the IoT banner.

To be fair – field data collection, M2M communications, and SCADA systems are early examples of processes enabled and improved with data. But as Porter calls out, the real impact of cheaper, better sensors with ubiquitous connectivity is that the products we make are changing. IoT isn’t about my existing meters getting more credibility – it’s about how devices are going to start metering themselves.

The real transformation going on is in the product development and engineering labs of established industries. How can we make our legacy products data-enabled, delivering better value via more information? It’s not just startups – old-line manufacturing firms, large and small, are mixing their favorite Lean techniques with startup Agile thinking – transforming what they build and how they build it.

Muddled Marketing Message

But this is where I see a lot of product and service providers trying to get into the space – but missing the point. What I hear from most folks is a message targeted at Innovators / startups making “cool new” consumer products, or Enterprises looking implement data collection for their own internal operations, like asset tracking or shop floor monitoring. I rarely hear messaging that targets the enterprise innovator – bright people with specific domain knowledge, who are looking to solve specific challenges in the IoT Framework (what data to collect, how to collect / send / store it, and how to use it) as they are building products and services for their customers.

The conversations need to change – like, how can we get our sensors into your products? or how can you [in essence] re-sell our cloud or connectivity services?

The Magic Number for IoT is 50B devices by 2020 – but we aren’t going to hit that number with consumer gadgets (fitness trackers and garage door openers) and internal enterprise cost-cutting (internet-enabled mouse traps [actual vendor-provided use case, I kid you not]). We will get to 50B when the businesses that make everything from light bulbs to lasers, pipes to pumps, and everything else we use add sensors and connectivity to their foundation, legacy products.

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